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Saturday, April 29, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Garden Tools

Pros share the tools they can't garden without

Seattle Times staff reporter

Gardening professionals rely on many of the same tools you do to eliminate weeds, plant perennials and trim unwieldy shrubs.

But we wanted to know which tools they truly depend on to get them through the day.

So we probed the minds of a few local garden professionals for three hand tools they can't do without. And we learned even the professionals spend a lot of time weeding.

Jessi Bloom

Owner, N.W. Bloom

EcoLogical Landscaping

(425-486-6902, www.nwbloom.com)

Bloom raves about the Garden Claw (www.gardenclaw.com), which breaks up soil and makes planting fast and easy.

"It's awesome, awesome, awesome," she said. "I get really excited about that tool. If anybody loses it, they're in trouble."

Also on the list for the award-winning, organic landscape designer is a flame weeder, an alternative herbicide to chemicals. A torch is connected to a propane tank, and the flame is used to burn weeds away. It's most effective on gravel patches for newly seeded weeds. You'll have to get on your knees to dig out established ones, she said.

She also favors the three-pronged fork, which has three flat tines. The fork is great for digging beneath weeds and removing the entire root mass so it doesn't come back, she said.

The flame weeder is available at www.gardeners.com. The three-pronged fork is available at Molbak's, 13625 N.E. 175th St., Woodinville, 425-483-5000, www.molbaks.com.

Brandon Scott Peterson

Owner, The Palm Room

(5336 Ballard Ave., Seattle, 206-782-7256)

Peterson likes tools with style. One of his favorites is the ika hoe, a Japanese tool. The dual-use tool has a flat blade on one side and a three-pronged claw on the other.

"There's an Americanized version, (but) I think the Japanese versions are kind of chic," he said. "One side has a claw, the other side has a flat piece, so if you need to cut a root, you just bang away with that."

Peterson also relies on a hula hoe for weeding. The tool has an open metal loop that cuts through weeds.

"You go really quick, and it gets the weeds," he said.

But tools don't have to be complex — or even be "garden tools," really. Peterson depends on long screwdrivers for pulling out dandelions. They reach deep into the ground to get at a weed's roots.

The hula hoe is available at Swansons Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle, 206-782-2543, www.swansonsnursery.com. The ika hoe is available online at www.hidatool.com.

Alan Burke

Owner, Classic Nursery & Landscape Co., Redmond,

(12526 Avondale Road N.E., Redmond, 425-885-5678, www.classicnursery.com)

Landscape architect Burke likes to tuck a pair of handy houseplant shears in his pocket when he's on the job.

"Since they're so small, they're easy to carry around and manipulate," he said.

You also will find him with an expandable rake. The tines expand for raking piles or leaves and narrow for use in a garden.

Like Peterson, Burke loves the hula hoe. Assistant nursery manager Megan Fletcher chimed in with one of her favorite tools, the hori hori knife. Serrated on one side, the knife cuts through perennials and weeds.

"That is by far one of my favorite tools, and amazingly durable," she said.

All these items are available at Classic Nursery.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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